I always look forward to watching the MTV Video Music Awards. The performances and the scandals always make for a good time unlike the usually staid Grammy award shows. Who can forget last year's epic Lady Gaga performance complete with fake blood or Kanye West drunkenly interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech both of which were rated 10 for pure entertainment value. The awards that aired this past Sunday on September 12th, were nowhere near as great as last year's NYC version (I think they're just better in NYC in general) but it still sported plenty of great music and great moments. And, bonus, the majority of the artists featured have albums that are available through the library. So hold off shopping on iTunes for now and go to the library's catalog instead.
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster (2009)
Without question the biggest winner of the night was Lady Gaga. When she went onstage in a meat dress to accept her award for Video of the Year (for "Bad Romance") from Cher (who was wearing her outfit from "Turn Back Time"!) I literally thought that my head would explode with joy. In fact, I am fairly certain that the heads of many of my gay friends did explode with joy when the duo shared the stage. In her acceptance speech, Lady Gaga shared the title of her new album (due in 2011) - Born This Way and shared a few bars of the title song. There is still plenty to love on her 2009 album The Fame Monster. The song "Monster" is a favorite and has the great lyrical refrain "he ate my heart" which will, inevitably, stick in your head forever.
Eminem - Recovery (2010)
Eminem is without a doubt an all time favorite of mine and of MTV. He won last night for Best Male Video and Best Hip-Hop video for his song of "Not Afraid," a rap song of redemption and promises and rates up there with some of the best Eminem songs of the past. There is a reason why he continues to fascinate us as well as be rated one of the best MCs in the game. My favorite song off Recovery is "Love the Way You Lie." It is an in-your-face song about love, obsession and abuse and thanks to Rihanna it has one the best hooks in hip-hop EVER! His performance of the song opened the show and when Rihanna came out on stage in her cute dress and red wig I had a huge grin plastered on my face.
Justin Bieber - My World 2.0 (2010)
Long before his Best New Artist win last night (beating out Drake and Ke$ha), Justin established himself as the teen music phenom to salivate over. This Canadian is way too cute to be denied and his instantly catchy song "Baby" is kinda a pop classic already with it's doo-wop beat. As his fans will attest, once you hear it you are in pop music heaven and whether you like it or not you will be bobbing along to it in no time. His performance of the hit started with him rolling up in convertible, wearing a letterman jacket and ended with a surfeit of streamers falling from the sky. Sigh.
Florence + the Machine - Lungs (2009)
The best non-lip synched performance of the night and the "Who the heck is that?" award goes to the British band Florence + the Machine who performed their worldwide hit and transcendant song "Dog Days are Over." Lead singer, the red haired Florence Welch, sings like an angel and was back-upped by an orchestra, dancers and singers. The song about freedom, renewal and letting go of the past was never a big hit over here but it was featured heavily this summer in the trailers for the movie Eat, Pray, Love. This is probably my favorite new band of 2010 and if their performance is any indication of their live show I can't wait to see them in person.
Drake - Thank Me Later (2010)
Drake is hot. Not just in looks, (although, holler!) but also in career. Up for several awards last night for "Find Your Love" and "Forever," Drake didn't win—losing to Eminem—but he has proven that he is the future of hip-hop with endorsements from just about every major MC and music producer. Who knew that Jimmy from Degrassi had it in him? During the awards he performed his song "Fancy" alongside heavyweights Swiss Beatz and Mary J. Blige. While a fun song, I was hoping for "Find Your Love" instead. The song perfectly showcases his strength as a singer and the video is so good, so cinematic—we know he can act so is a movie deal far behind?
Paramore - Brand New Eyes (2009)/ B.O.B - Adventures of Bobby Ray (2010)
Hayley Williams and her band Paramore performed their current hit "The Only Exception" during the show. The gentle love song was very low key but it showcased what the band does best: punk/emo angst tempered with the sweet toughness of William's voice. Hayley also performed with hip-hop star B.O.B. for their stellar duet "Airplanes."
Robyn - Body Talk pt. 1 (2010)
The Swedish pop singer deserved more then the one minute sing out to commercial that she got. Hands down Robyn is one of the best dance/pop music singers out there. A huge star everywhere in the world but the States she deserves to be a bigger star over here. One listen to her single "Dancing on My Own" and you'll know why.
Neon Trees - Habits (2010)
This alt rock band from Provo, Utah weren't featured during the award show but they should have been. Their awesome hit "Animal" is everywhere right now. It's not just their dance-punk sound I like but their new wave look as well. The four person band (which features a female drummer) hit the big time when they opened for The Killers during their 2008 concert. If you're into The Killers, MGMT, The Academy is..., then check out Neon Trees.
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream (2010)
Katy Perry didn't perform last night but she was a nominee for "California Gurls"—which after this summer, is a song I never want to hear again (and I am pretty sure that I am not alone with that sentiment). I can't say the same for her newest hit "Teenage Dream," a song of pure pop confection which has quickly become a favorite of mine. Just thinking about it makes me want to be driven to the beach in a convertible by a hot guy (Have you seen the video?? Dang!) No doubt Katy will be an MTV awards staple (for good or ill) for years to come.
Deadmau5 - For Lack of a Better Name (2009)
Second place in the "Who the heck was that?" category goes to Awards DJ, Deadmau5 (pronounced dead mouse). He was the guy wearing the giant, neon mouse head spinning records. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario (What up, Canada!), Deadmau5 is a highly-in-demand, world renowned DJ and producer of house and electro-house music. He has several CDs that showcase his talents. Check out the tracks "Ghosts 'n' Stuff" and the more atmospheric "Strobe" off his latest album.
For more music recommendations check out my Radio NYPL entry for May 2010.